Acupuncture can significantly reduce the incidence and severity of radiation-induced xerostomia (RIX) in patients with head and neck cancer, according to a randomised controlled trial published in JAMA Network Open.
The phase 3 trial compared a standard care control (SCC) with true acupuncture (TA) and sham acupuncture (SA) among patients with oropharyngeal or nasopharyngeal carcinoma who were undergoing radiation therapy at two centres in the United States and China.
A total of 339 patients were included in the final analysis - 112 in the TA group, 115 in the SA group and 112 in the SCC group.
The incidence of clinically significant xerostomia one year after radiation therapy finished across the groups was 38 patients in the TA group (34.6%), 54 patients in the SA group (47.8%) and 60 patients in the SCC group (55.1%).
Post hoc comparisons revealed a significant difference between the TA and SCC groups. TA was significantly different from SA only at the centre in China, and SA was significantly different from SCC only at the US site.
The authors say further studies are needed to confirm the clinical relevance and generalisability of these findings and to evaluate inconsistencies in response to sham acupuncture between patients in the US and China.